Writing about Sustainable Agriculture in Bolivia was a Great Learning Opportunity

I was out of work due to the COVID 19 pandemic. With just a story idea about Tarwi, I ventured into green journalism thanks to the Climate Tracker Sustainable Diets fellowship, and now I’ll go for another one.

Doing environmental journalism, with a solutions approach and in times of coronavirus, was a challenge and, at the same time, a great learning opportunity.

On Tuesday, July 7, I received an email from Climate Tracker, confirming a 3 months path to write an in-depth journalistic piece on some of Bolivia’s major food challenges.

My short experience as a journalist was reduced to the almost automatic job of asking questions about what a politician thinks or transcribing police reports about tragic events.

But, could I do an in-depth piece on climate and environment?

“It’s a challenge,” I told myself. And perhaps not an easy one, but I took the challenge and I’m glad I did!

Bolivia’s traditional media outlets tend not to focus on environmental issues. As citizens, we are not fully aware of what the problems and threats are, so I was excited to learn more.

On this 3-month journey, I learned everything about Tarwi, that unique legume that has the ability to heal degraded soils and maximize other crops’ production by up to 50%.

I read reports, interviewed experts, and, of course, travelled to the fields, to Anzaldo, in the inter Andean valley of Cochabamba, to know and see it with my own eyes.

It was just as Doña Eleuteria Sánchez told me: “Like our body, the earth needs to feed.”

The story was published in La Región, one of the most outstanding environmental media outlets in Bolivia. Now I look back and think, this was the first time I’d ever received a journalism grant. And you know what? It will not be the last!

Thanks to the teams at Hivos and Climate Tracker, I have just received another! This time, in Journalism and Gastronomic Investigation.

Tarwi cultivation in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Stories await us

A university professor once said that “journalism is a mirror and a window.” How true it is. Through stories, learn to observe the world and look within; otherwise, we would just aspire to see our navel and gaze at the walls.

The streets of Cochabamba, where I live, are flooded every rainy season. At the same time, in other areas, the rainfall for agricultural irrigation is eagerly awaited. The climate stories are so close: in the complaints about the intensely hot days, the cold days in the weekend, in our food decisions, in the thousands of hectares of Bolivian soils that continue to burn,even while I am typing this.

Stories about the environment matter to all of us, but we need more and better journalism to get closer.